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JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE

(Jean-Pierre Grumbach)

France

Born: Paris, France, 20 October 1917.
Died: Paris, France, 1973.


Jean-Pierre Melville (JPG, 15 KB)

An avid filmgoer from childhood, he began making amateur films in his teens, but WWII service with the British army, then with the Free French, delayed his professional debut as director until after the war when he was 30. Unable to gain entry into any of the French studios, he formed his own production company in 1946 and began making films on shoestring budgets, shooting on actual locations with skeleton crews and no stars, at times acting as his own cameraman or art director. His economic methods of independent production served as a model for the directors of the French New Wave, although his style and preoccupations had little in common with that movement. Melville was a precise, methodical director with a predilection for themes of war and crime. The former preoccupation was attributable to his own experiences, and the latter was the probable result of his nostalgic admiration for the Hollywood cinema of the 30s. Beginning in the early 60s, Melville worked with larger budgets and with name stars like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon and showed an increasingly technical mastery of the medium. He appeared as an actor in his own Deux Hommes dans Manhattan (1959) and in several other French films, including Cocteau's Orpheus, Godard's Breathless, and Chabrol's Bluebeard / Landru (1962). He chose his pseudonym after his favorite novelist, Herman Melville.

Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia



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